I’m a stadium junkie.
It’s true. I love everything about them. One of my best days ever was when we had total access, roof to clubhouse, of Tiger Stadium while crews were getting it ready for opening day one year.
I try to visit a new park every year, and I have to get there as soon as the gates open to explore every view and concession stand.
So naturally I’m already obsessing over the new Mets ballpark. This is the important time, when the powers at be are busy plotting.
Now’s the time to play stadium designer. The friends at Faith and Fear in Flushing and The Eddie Kranepool Society took a shot at this and had some great ideas.
I’m going to look at things a little differently. I’ve been fortunate enough check out games at a number of stadiums — old and new — around baseball, and here are some of the features I’ve seen elsewhere and would like see considered for the Mets’ new playground.
Details are coming out slowly. We know about red brick and an entrance that will recall Ebbets Field. I’m OK with that as long as its a starting point. While it is important to pay homage to history, we have to continue creating history on our own.
Views: What you see beyond the field is important, which is one of the reasons the donut stadiums were so reviled. Instead of a great city view, they give fans a panorama of usually empty seats.
Shea, had it faced in any other direction, would have had a much better view than what we have now, which is a not especially nice section of Queens.
Realize, of course, that tradition called for most stadiums to face the same way to deal with the sun and shadows when such things were issues for most of the games. And we know that change comes at a glacial pace in the Grand Old Game. But now stadiums face in all directions, so we are free to wonder.
If the New Shea — I know it will have a different name — faces north, we have a view of the water, which is a little further than McCovey Cove but still a short walk. Another direction and the Manhattan skyline rises in the distance. Other options are listed in other sections.
A Local Icon: The Phillies did an OK job of highlighting the Liberty Bell, which is done up in massive neon and "rings" when a Phillies player hits a homer.
New Yorkers, of course, have many icons to celebrate. No other city can compete. Yet we downplay this natural advantage. I offer: The Statue of Liberty.
Lady Liberty roots for the Mets.
C’mon! You know Lady Liberty’s a Mets fan. You think the Yankees want any part of your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free in their snooty ballpark? Heck no.
We need to claim Miss Liberty as a Met the way the Rangers have with their alternative sweaters. We need some kind of presence. Perhaps something like Kiss did here on its revenge tour, having her peering over the right field wall, torch glowing brightly and serving as a warning beacon for the planes heading into LaGuardia.
And while we’re at it, let’s make the food court look like Times Square, at least the mall-like version in recent years. And make sure they serve bagels. Lots of poppy seed bagels.
Bridges: Pittsburgh did a fine job of facing their stadium to include the view of bridges. It looks cool -- if you like little bridges. We, on the other hand, have big-ass world-class bridges. And some are not too far from the stadium, like the Whitestone, easily viewed in the distance if the yard is facing the right way.
Landmark in view: The Cardinals have the Arch looming overhead. We have the Unisphere. If we’re not going to set our view on Manhattan or the bridges, I suggest facing south. Heck, build the stadium in Flushing Meadows Park so the symbol of the 1964 fair is a Carlos Delgado blast away. It’s not like there’s a lot of stuff in that park anyway. The Mets are forever linked with the fair, so go all the way. And I have to say that incorporating the Parachute Jump at Keyspan Park was brilliant.
A sign: Every time I’ve been to Wrigley Field, I’ve seen people posing with that red sign, even where there’s no game going on. It’s a perfect snapshot that tells where you are and what you’re doing, and is at a nice, posable height. We have the signs, but they’re spread out over a long space or way up high. Put a nice, colorful sign somewhere low and have an employee standing there offering to take photos for people.
Statues: Speaking of photos, we need some statues. Teams are all over the place on this. The Cards do a lot of things well, but they dropped the ball in this area, with one large statue of Stan Musial and a whole series of small sculptures of Bob Gibson and the gang. The Tigers have lots of statues, but they’re placed in a spot that makes them hard to pose with unless you want to be photographed with Willie Horton’s butt, which you do not.
We can get this right. Tom Seaver is an obvious choice, as is Mike Piazza once he’s got his plaque in Cooperstown with a Mets cap. Honoring Gil Hodges would be great. I wouldn’t object to Willie Mays, and you can check out the Brewers’ Hank Aaron statue for precedence.
Now for the bold pick: Jackie Robinson. The Mets have become the defacto preservers of the Robinson story even though he’s a Dodger. Where was the national celebration of the 50th anniversary? At Shea.
Greg Luzinski is on display at Cit Bank
Old Guys: One of the best features of Citizens Bank Park was Greg Luzinski. It’s true! He runs "Bull's Barbecue" and hangs out posing for photos, telling stories about playing with Tom Seaver and just being a nice guy. Think of the possibilities for us! Rusty used to run a restaurant. How about "Mexican Food with Mex?" "Kranepool’s Kitchen?" "Grote’s Grill?" "Bagels with Benny Agbayani"
History: The Mets have a colorful history. And while I hear they’ve become better at celebrating it, they can still do a lot more. A museum and Hall of Fame that the average fan can actually see are a must. The Pirates have some great touches at PNC Park, such as banners decorated with baseball cards from all eras. Very cool.